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Helsinki man selling surveillance pictures on Facebook

A man reportedly who set up dozens of surveillance cameras in a graffiti-troubled area of Helsinki is trying to sell images of purported vandals in action via his Facebook page for 180 euros apiece. One legal expert says the video vigilante could be violating data protection laws.

Image: Yle

A man who claims to have set up more than 50 surveillance cameras in the Helsinki district of Pitäjänmäki to catch the perpetrators of the area’s continuing graffiti problem is offering to sell the captured photos to property owners on his Facebook page.

While the man is asking 180 euros for the photos, it's not known whether he has made any sales.

On his page, the man wrote: "We have installed more than 50 micro-chipped cameras in the Pitäjänmäki area where vandals are often found. If there is poorly-drawn graffiti on your wall there is probably identifiable video of the incident."

"To the vandal children’s parents," the man continued, "Your little cuties caught in the images will get a big bill!"

In the same post the man published a photo of three youths in the act of defacing a train carriage.

Public filming not always OK

Legal scholar and Data Protection Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio is critical of the practice, however.

"Filming in your own yard and in public and using the images for your own use is permitted, but there is a strong indication that this is something different," Aarnio says.

"[The surveillance] appears to be a business and is very questionable. If someone reported this to the data protection office we would investigate," he says.

Aarnio also says that the filming of public areas and publishing that footage is not automatically permitted.

"For example, Google needed to get permission to photograph the content for its Street View service, despite the roads are public places," Aarnio explains.

"And because the surveillance images are for sale, it seems there is a motivation to spread the material to a wider audience," he says.

Aarnio says that surveillance cameras are about the collection of personal information about people in the range of the cameras.

"The collection of personal information requires motivation and in this case I wonder what that motivation is. It's an unpleasant development, making money this way."

Facebook salesman quiet

Helsinki police inspector Jarmo Heinonen says he has never heard of anything like this before and couldn't comment on the matter and suggested Yle's Swedish- language Helsinki office speak with the data ombudsman.

He did say that if a crime was captured on camera the police have a right to view that footage in any case.

Yle attempted to contact the surveillance footage salesman for comment but he has not replied.

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